31 October 2012

Amethyst pie-crust ring.


I do make projects with precious stones sometimes.
Here is one of the latest ones: a silver, gold gilded ring with a deep violet coloured amethyst.
 This high setting of the stone allows the light to make all those beautiful reflexes with in the stone - giving more "life" in it.

To show the actual size, few photos of the ring in use.


For comparison - the ring from the Erfurt Treasure I try to reproduce. Only the gold setting with the stone survived the band probably was cut away and re-melted or re-used for other piece of jewellery.


I am often asked about which gems where used in Middle Ages. That a good  moment to put here a  little more information about it.

Most of the precious stones used in medieval jewellery was imported from the Far East. From the region of India, Afghanistan, Burma, Sri Lanka. Some where also mined in Europe, like garnets. They came from region of Bohemia (Czech Republik) which made them much available and affordable, that is why they are among the most popular of stones used in jewellery.
The shaping of the stones was still a new and a costly craft in 14th and 15th century, so most of the stones are being left in their natural shape just polished to give them more shine. This type of stone shape is called cabochon.

Here is a few more examples of similar rings with different types of stones.

Another gold ring from the same Erfurt Treasure with almandine ( a type of garnet).

Two gold rings from the Clomar Treasure with a red garnet and with a green tourmaline.


The knowlege of different types of stones and how to check their quality was a important knowlege for many merchants. I one of the letters from 1440 a Florentine merchant Giovanni da Uzzano, shares his opinion  about the most desirable precious stones in all colours and how to judge their quality.

"Fine rubies should be like goodly pomegranate seeds,
good balas-rubies should be like a pomegranate that is not well ripened,
a good emerald will show greener than any other green it is laid beside,
a good topaz is like shining gold, and most of them look as if they are split.
A good sapphire resembles good azure pigment, and is on the white side,
a good aquamarine is like sapphire, but more whitish,
a good citrine looks like wax, with something of red in it,
a good garnet looks like a peach flower.
A good diamond looks like steel and is tranlslucent like glass, and has sharp points,
but another sort tends towards yellow, and third sort looks like crystal, though in shape all three are alike.
A good jasper is green, with shining spots, and seems oiled-most of this sort, comes with figures; another kind is brownish green, with red spots.
A good chalcedony is either white with a shade of blue, or white with a shade of yellow.
A good cornelian looks like cherries that are really red.
A good amethysts are violet colour.
A good turquoise looks dove-white in colour and is not transparent."

Lightbown, R. W.: Mediaeval European Jewelry . London 1992
Mecking, Oliver (el al.): Der Schatzfund - Analysen - Herstellungstechniken - Rekonstruktionen. Die Mittelalterliche Judische Kultur in Erfurt, Bd. 2.Weimar 2010. 

29 October 2012

All that gold!

Finished copper ornaments gilded with gold.

The repousse works came back from gilding and they sure shine bright! They are looking so much more precious, I am truly suprised with the result.


I did write that they are finished, but it does not mean there is no more work to do.
 Now, time to make a dress to put all that gold on.

 I'll keep you informed with progress.

Gold gilded repousse dress ornaments -  also known as bezants.

30 September 2012

Repousse work and a mixture called tenax.

A few examples of the repousse work I made recently.
I am experimenting with new a technique called repousse. Using punches - polished, blunt steel tools, the image is hammered down and pressed in to a metal foil. 

It was used to produce a light weight metal ornaments which where sewn on dresses and church textiles.

14th century clay "dolls" from Nuremberg (Germany) with big floral metal ornaments.

14th and 15th century dress ornaments.
Silver-gilt and copper-gilt.
Kloster St Andreas, Saren, Switzerland.
Those are sewn on a dress made for a statue imaging  the Jesus as a child.

But first things first. The metal foils is fixed on the black mixture, which the Monk Teophilus calls tenax.
In his manuscript "Diversarum Artium Schedula" from 12th century he gives the recipe for preparing it:

"Grind a piece of brick or roof tile very small (fine), 
and melt some pitch in am earthenware pot and add little wax.
 These being melted together, mingle the powder of the tile, and stir it strongly 
and pour it in water. And when it has begun to grow cold,
 dip both hands into the water and macerate it for long time,
 until you can extend and draw out this composition like a skin.
 You instantly melt this composition and will fill the vial to the top. (...)"
 - from Chapter LIX
Components ready to be melted. Some brick powder, resin, pitch, and wax (not on the photo).

Part of the original  Pages in the manuscript "Diversarum  Artium Schedula"  from Vienna.

I tired this recipe, but than I decided to add also some resin to improve the elasticity and than it was perfect. Probably if I would be working in a cooler temperature the resin would not be needed, but as I was working with it in the middle of the summer, extra resin made a huge improvement.

But what makes this composition such a good base for the working with a metal foil ?
There are several reasons:
First, when heated close to the fire it become liquid and sticky, so the metal can be easily fixed on the surface (you can also heat up the metal piece and melt it into the pitch).
It holds and stabilize the metal while working and give an elastic base to press the image down.
Secondly, it is hard enough to give a good resistance and elastic in the same moment.
Finally, what is also impotent it burns away totally which makes cleaning of the work much easier and quicker.
 Only a thin coat of brick powder remains on the surface, you can brush it away or add a few drops of water and use as a cleaning/polishing compound to bring some light to your work
A wooden board with tenax and some tenax rods for future projects.
 When the mixture is ready I pur it on the wooden board. I make 4-5 layers waiting until each one cools down before putting the next one.
I prepare the metal pieces and heat them in to the fire until they glow red, to make them softer and easier to work with.
Cutting copper disc with copy of the shears from the Mastermyr find.

If the image is deep, there might be a need to heat it again to avoid braking it while stretching. To do that,  put a glowing piece of charcoal over the metal and blow gently. That will make the metal piece warm enough to be easily removed from the pitch.
Starting with a sketch and making the border decorations.
I use steal punches to hammer the image on the foil. I work on the reverse side so it is important to check from time to time how it look also on the front side.
Close-up to the reverse side.
Avers side of the ornament, and an its image left in pitch.
Big flowers are going to be sew on a surcot, a type of dress,
 as button-like ornaments, are based on a find from Salzburg (Austria).
Smaller ones are based on a design from the bronze matrix found in Norway.
Already with little holes for sewing them on.
Workbench view.

The photo of the original find from the Salzburg Treasure.
 That was a very interesting project, not only because I had to learn a totally new goldsmith technique, it was mostly because it's a link connecting goldsmith work with a textile projects with are made in the Middelaldercentret. Two different techniques but both have the same purpose - showing the status of the owner as much as satisfying the aesthetic needs.

It also made some visitors of the museum revise their point of view on a goldsmiths work in Middle Ages, and realize that what we call now "jewellery" is quite a modern concept,
 and that it differs from a medieval point of view.

There spectrum of products made by goldsmiths where much wider: dress ornaments, buttons, hook-and-eyes, buckles, metal beads where as important as rings and brooches and pendents. Also the metals that goldsmith use was not only gold and silver as it is now. Gilded copper and bronze was extremely popular, because it made a similar efect when weared but was much cheaper to produce.

I surely going to work more with repousse. It gives a great effect and I am able to produce pieces which can be so complex but still feel very delicate and pleasant to wear.
They can be used stitched on the textiles, riveted on a leather as belt ornaments,  hammered on a chests covered with velvet, used for book covers, or as an element of even more elaborate works.
All that will be gilded with gold and sew on a new priest dress for Middelaldercentret.


Theophilus: An essay upon various Arts in three books by Theophilus, called also Rugerus, priest and monk forming an Encyclopaedia of Chritian Art of the eleventh century. Translated, with notes by Robert Hendrie, London 1847.

Theune, Claudia: Der mittelalterliche Schatzfund aus der Judengasse in Salzburg. In Ars Sacra. Kunstschätze des Mittelalters aus dem Salzburg Museum. Jahresschrift Salzburg Museum 53, Salzburg/Oberndorf 2010, p.

Posted by Picasa

18 September 2012

Visit in my new workshop

Today let me take you for a walk around my new workplace. We are in the year 1402 in the town Sundkøbing. It is a trade town by the baltic sea, with a harbour, over 10 houses and a tournament field.
My house is the first one when you entering the gate, just next to the market place, and vis-à-vis blacksmith (just if need some custom tools).

Next to the house I got a big garden with vegetables, herbs and fruit trees.

My workshop is in the front room with a window coming to the main street. There you can find a small bench, anvils, hammers, tongs and cutters, punches, chemicals, metals, showcases and all the items I need to have in reach while working.

All the rest of materials I keep in the storage room. There you can find charcoal, clay, resin, wax, stone, pitch, and items I want to keep safe and locked when I am not around.

 In the backroom. There is a fireplace, table with benches. shelves with all kind of ceramics and cooking equipment. With  the ladder standind by the wall, you can climb up to the sleeping place under the rooftop. The back doors are leading to the garden.

It is not a big house, but it got everything that is needed: a working bench with some light, the fireplace. I am successively filling it up with new tools and materials to beable to make more different metalwork in the way a 15th century goldsmith would.
Posted by Picasa

29 August 2012

Working full time in Middle Ages

I was quiet on the blog lately but it doesn’t mean I haven’t done any nice projects. That was a very busy summer. 

I started a new work in the Middelaltercentret in Nykobing Falster as a late 14th/early 15th century goldsmith.

 For the last months I spent a lot of time researching on medieval tools and workshops appearance, with filling up my new workshop with tools, arranging space, making show cases etc.
Also with leaning to make some nice metal pieces without help of  any the modern equipment.

I had some fails and successes on the way, but having a great time either way!

In my workshop with some wax casting forms and precious stones and pearls in a front, and few anvils and a show case in the back.

 Here is a link to museum:

4 February 2012

E letter love locket-brooch from th Metropolitan Museum

As the February is considered to be the month of love - today I got a medieval lover gift.

It is a brooch but it is also a locket - it has a hinge and after turning a small lock, it opens and shows the inscription: 

 which means
"Fair lady, may I always remain close to your heart."
Those words are safely kept from the sight of others and only a wearer knows about them.
Inside the brooch there is some space which might be used for storing some kind of a small gift, a reminder of the adorer, like a piece of hair - secular love relict.
All that features together creates a very intimate piece of jewellery and something far more precious than gold and all pearls it is made of.

The copy of the brooch unlocked and in two parts, before fixing the hinge rivet.

 The cover of the brooch has a shape of letter E and in its centre bears the figure of a man holding arrows aimed at his heart. The small holes seen on the top are the places where six small pearls will be set (there is still one remaining at the original brooch)

It was probably originally manufactured in second half of the 14th century in Southern Germany (the inscription is giving some hints as it seems to be written in a Saxon dialect).

The original brooch from the Metropolitan Museum- closed
Material: silver, gold plated
Dimensions: 32mm x 22mm x 38mm
Dating: late 14th century.

The original brooch from the Metropolitan Museum - open.
A few more photos of the making process so far.
I started with preparing the wax models. The corpus of the letter was cut and carved hollow inside and the figure of the man was made with a wax build-up technique.

Wax models

After casting, all elements were assembled together. The figure was riveted on place, the hole for a closing lock was cut in the back panel and the closing "hook" with a silver bead was set. The pin was installed inside.

Putting on this brooch is probably not the most convenient, but after it is made you can be sure it is safe and quite difficult to lose.

 How to wear it? First, the lock have to be open, than the piece of cloth has to be pulled thru the hole in a back panel and punched thru with a pin. After straightening the cloth brooch is on and you need only to close it again to keep the inscriptions hidden.
Here are photos of the brooch just before the engravings were made were you can see how it is constructed.

Closed brooch without pearls.



Posted by Picasa